Monday, 28 June 2010
“My heart is thudding in my chest but I know I should remain strong but I am scared of dying.
My name is Nilufar Gholami, I am Karimi Gholami’s daughter and today is my last day on earth. I will be executed under Sharia law for committing adultery. All the people from my village in this great country ‘Iran’ with gather to see me die. I have committed no crime but yet I will be punished for it. The village council and Judge Rashidi have declared the sentence of ‘Death by Stoning’. My father wishes to save the family’s honor by sacrificing my life as he is ashamed of me.
I was kidnapped and raped by Saeed, my own brother-in-law as he was not happy with my sister . My father was angry with me, as I have tainted the family name, he beat me up and I begged him for forgiveness. I said I was sorry for what had happened and accepted my mistake. My father appealed to the village council to have me stoned to death for committing adultery. Saeed was awarded 200 lashes for his crime”.
As I listen to Nilufar’s story, I can feel my eyes moistening. My chador is wet with the tears that continue to fall unabated. Her story is heart wrenching and I have no power to change her fate and save her. Women in my country have no rights, they are worse off than animals. I have come to the village of ‘Shraza which is 200 kilometres from ‘Qom’ in Iran, to meet Nilufar, when I came to know of her. This small village with a population of just 150 people is getting ready for one of the biggest events they have seen in recent times. There is a kind of urgency and cruel passion which I can see in the eyes of men who have judged Nilufar’s fate.
Nilufars’s mother Farzana came in the room wiping her nose on her chador. She started combing Nilufar’s hair to tame the unruly mane, I could see that her eyes are red and her hands are shaking as she combs her daughter’s hair. She smiles and scolds her daughter as if they are bantering about normal everyday house work.
I stepped out of the room to give mother and daughter some private moments before the unspeakable crime is to take place. In the courtyard, I see that women from the entire village have gathered to show their support and sympathy. They know that their own life is not theirs but is owned by their fathers,brothers, husbands, sons and other male members of their family. I see my aunt sitting with them, her eyes are closed and she seems to be praying.
I am bound to these women by culture and religion. My own upbringing has been liberal and I am married to a man who believes in Women's Rights as much as I do. I am an activist for women’s rights and we are fighting against religious fundamentalism in Iran. The struggle is an uphill battle against corrupt judiciary and the stern patriarchal society.
The door opened and Farzana stepped out of the room covering her head with the chador. Nilufar is wearing a beautiful blue Shalwar Kameez with embroidered sleeves. Her face is radiant but her eyes are swollen because of crying. She is holding her mother’s hand as she steps out of the house. The women follow them on the street like a sea of black chadors. I am walking with Farzana and Nilufar as they head towards the centre of the village. All along the road, men, young and old have lined up to celebrate the spectacle of death.
The crowd moves at a languorous pace through the lanes lined by stone houses on both sides and stops when we reach the village mosque. I see a few men standing on the steps of the mosque and I can hear a few stifled sobs behind me.
A man in a black suit with a beard speaks up, he says ‘Nilufar Gholami, we have received a complaint from your father Karimi Gholami that you have committed ‘Zina’ under ‘Hudud’ ordinance of Sharia Law. We have four witnesses who have seen you commit this terrible act. The witnesses are your father, your brother, your uncle and your cousin. Hence, by the power vested in me as a judge of this village and the head of council, you are hereby sentenced to death by stoning. Do you have anything you wish to say?”
Nilufar stared at her father with anger and betrayal in her eyes, she kept quiet but held on to her mothers hand. I could hear the other women sobbing behind me and I saw Farzana hugging her daughter and I heard her say ‘Be strong my darling, Jannat awaits you’. My heart is galloping and I am choked up with unshed tears, words fail me and I just give Nilufar a tight hug. When death is imminent, would any words I say make a difference ?
Two men approach Nilufar and drag her away from her mother. They tie her hands behind her back and walk her to the village centre. Farzana looks pale and feverish and I am afraid that she will faint any moment. One of the women is holding her as they walk with the crowd. I can see that there is excitement in the air, it feels as if a carnival has come to the Village. The boys have never seen a stoning before and are excited, they do not understand the gravity of the situation.
We all come to a halt in front of a huge pile of stones.I know the law states that “size of stone should not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones". I see boys and men picking up stones in both hands and weighing them by bouncing them up and down. I can see that a small pit has been dug up, some meters away from the stone pile. All the while I feel I have been caught in a nightmare and all this will disappear once I open my eyes.
Nilufar has a resigned look on her face. She cries out ‘I love you Mama’ before her voice is cut off. She is wrapped up tightly in a white sheet which covers her from head to her waist and is made to stand in the pit. We can now see her from chest up with a white cloth covering her face. The men fill up the pit and now Nilufar looks like a ghost stuck in the earth.
I am standing next to the wailing women. There is chatter in the air and Judge Rashidi starts the proceeding by throwing the first stone. It bounces off harmlessly and does not reach Nilufar. I can see Karimi Gholami standing ramrod straight with a proud look on his face. A youngish chap hurls the next stone which hits Nilufar and I can hear her muffled cry. Farzana faints and all of us rush to her side. I can now hear the persistent cries of Nilufar as the stones find their mark and draw blood from the fragile flesh. We carry Farzana to a nearby house to revive her, we pour water on her face and she opens her eyes.
I leave Farzana with the other women and rush back to the scene of the crime. The sight which meets my eyes is one which will remain imprinted on my brain for my entire life. I can see that the white sheet has turned completely red, there are stones coated with blood lying all around and the figure under the sheet is lifeless and quiet. The crowd has thinned and only the over zealous are still pelting stones at the lifeless figure. My stomach heaves and I vomit after I see this gruesome picture. I run back to Farzana with tears down my eyes and sobs pounding my throat, I seek out my aunt and cry in her arms. I cry till my tears run dry and there is nothing left in me. Another innocent is dead.
Once upon a time my country ‘Persia’, was the centre of culture and art , it was world famous for its language, it is one of the oldest continuous civilization. Now ‘Iran’, is famous for its religious fundamentalism and crime against women. The world looks on mute as more and more people die for committing minor offences in my country. the life of a woman is of no value.
My heart fills with rage and sorrow and only questions remain… When will this brutality end? When will people realize that stoning anyone to death is a crime? When will they stop hiding behind religion to commit these heinous acts?
All I am left with is this quote :
“Don’t act like the hypocrite
Who thinks he can conceal his wiles
While loudly quoting the Koran.”
-Hafez, 14th Century Iranian Poet.
This is a work of fiction. I have drawn from many resources while writing this story.
Zina in Islam is extramarital sex and premarital sex. Islamic law prescribes punishments for Muslim men and women for the act of Zina.
In Islamic law or Sharia, hudud usually refers to the class of punishments that are fixed for certain crimes that are considered to be "claims of God." They include theft, fornication, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy.
A chādor or chādar is an outer garment or open cloak worn by many Iranian women in public spaces; it is one possible way in which a Muslim woman may follow the Islamic dress code known as ḥijāb. A chador is a full-length semicircle of fabric open down the front, which is thrown over the head and held closed in front. It has no hand openings or closures but is held shut by the hands or by wrapping the ends around the waist.
Stoning people to death is a crime against humanity. It still happens in many Islamic countries all around the globe under the guise of religion. In most of these cases the victim is a woman whose human and civil rights are violated and she never receives a fair trial. India has a a different version of crime against women in the form of ‘Honor Killings’.
‘Amnesty International’ and ‘Stop Stoning’ are working since many years in raising awareness about Human rights violations and violence against women.